Published May 03, 2010When word emerged way back when that Nintendo's then upcoming Wii console would be motion-sensitive, the first thing most folks thought was: "cool, swordfights!"
And lo and behold, first-person swordfighter game Red Steel was made a launch title. Alas, it wasn't a good one. The game's reception was made worse by pre-release expectations that the Wii could actually sense 1:1 motion to simulate a virtual katana. But once the WiiMotionPlus brought those expectations closer to reality, a Red Steel sequel finally became possible.
Of course, saying Red Steel 2 is an improvement over the original is damning with faint praise; it's more like this was the game Ubisoft wanted to make all along. Beyond sword fighting that actually feels like sword fighting — wielding the katana will both entertain and exhaust you — the developers have also sussed out how to maximize the Wii's graphical power, eschewing the original game's attempt at bland realism for a stylized, cell-shaded art style similar to Borderlands. In fact, they pretty much ditched everything else from the original too, keeping only the name and the combination of swordsmanship and shooting.
Taking the latter to its logical (and awesome) extreme, Red Steel 2 offers a literal mix of East and West — make that Far East and the Wild West. Instead of the original's boring yakuza plot, this Firefly-esque alternate reality features samurais, ninjas and road warrior Ronin populating an anachronistically futuristic frontier town in the Nevada desert. Think spaghetti western, but with ramen noodles. Though the setting winds up providing more atmosphere than plot, it's still a cool environment to play in.
The FPS controls work like a wonder this time, with a vast array of katana moves and easy gun aiming, and while the admittedly aimless missions plod after awhile, the motion-heavy combat, which bases the strength of your attack on the speed and width of your swing, works better in short bursts anyway.
Sequels often lack that special something from the original, or are just refined iterations. But Red Steel 2 is such an improvement one wishes this got a new name. Consider it more a reboot and don't let its predecessor prevent you from taking a stab at it. (Ubisoft)